Thursday, July 31, 2008

Further musings on family photos ...

The biggest challenge, in this photo-scanning project of mine, is to STAY ON TRACK. But it isn’t wise to remain too narrowly focused, either. Trying to identify people and places can lead to some interesting byways.

For instance, our 1970s cross-country trip took us to a campground in Virginia at a Lake Reynovia. Searching on the Internet, I discovered the area is now seems to be a gated community. No more campground, as far as I can tell.( I wonder if there is still a lake.) Well, it has been nearly 40 years ...

But another offshoot of my photo research had to do with pre-Civil War days in Indiana, and the part some relatives played.

I have a group picture, taken at a summer Bible camp (there were lots of ministers in this line) at Winona Lake, Indiana, in 1911. It includes my Cains and Hamiltons, and some people with the surname Nyce. I had never been quite clear on how they were related, so felt justified in digressing in order to do a bit of sleuthing.

The Nyces were supposedly related to Cyrus Hamilton and family, so when the first research attempts yielded nothing more than that the Rev. Harry Nyce was a Presbyterian minister (big surprise), I turned to Cyrus, and found a fascinating story online, “The Story of Luther Donnell.” No author is listed, but there is an extensive bibliography, and the tale was compelling.

It seems the Hamiltons were deeply involved in the abolitionist movement -- something that was not touched on in later mug book accounts of this well-known farming family. They lived in Decatur County, IN, coming there from Kentucky in the 1820s, according to the Donnell article. I also learned that there was a “free black settlement” near Clarksburg, something else that I had never read about in Decatur County histories.

At one point a family of slaves from Kentucky was attempting to reach that haven when they were taken in and hidden by Luther Donnell. The upshot was that Donnell was indicted for “aiding Negroes to escape” (based on a law later declared void by the Indiana Supreme Court), and my ancestor by marriage, Cyrus Hamilton, paid his $500 bond.

I am still trying to figure out the Nyce connection, but meanwhile I learned something about the Hamiltons, including the fact that two of them married Donnell women.

For the complete "Story of Luther Donnell", Google the phrase, in quotation marks as shown.

Tags: Harry Nyce, Cyrus Hamilton, Luther Donnell, family photographs, genealogy

No comments: